World Dementia Council hosts global dialogue on early-career scientists in dementia


The dementia landscape project was launched by the World Dementia Council (WDC) in 2021, aiming to review international progress towards the 2025 goals identified at the 2013 G8 dementia summit. As part of this project, the WDC is hosting a series of global dialogues with members of the international dementia community, reflecting on where we have come from, where we are now, and what the next steps should be. On 10 October, WDC hold a global dialogue on early-career scientists in dementia, where attendees discussed the challenges facing early-career researchers working on dementia, and enablers that might help overcome these challenges. Project Officer Angela Bradshaw attended the WDC dialogue for Alzheimer Europe.

Attending by over 50 early-career researchers (ECRs) and several senior academics, the global dialogue was chaired by Prof. Anja Leist, Associate Professor in Public Health and Aging at the University of Luxembourg and the co-founder of the World Young Leaders in Dementia (WYLD) network. Prof. Paulo Caramelli, Professor of Neurology at the University of Minas Gerais in Brazil, co-Chaired the dialogue with Prof. Leist.

The meeting was kicked off by Lenny Shallcross, Executive Director of the WDC. Then, Dr. Heather Snyder and Dr. Claire Sexton (VP of Medical and Scientific Relations, and Director of Scientific Programs & Outreach at the US Alzheimer’s Association) gave a short presentation on the ways the Alzheimer Association supports ECRs, including information on the funding streams available, the networking and conferences that are organised, and other opportunities for career support and development. Afterwards, Adam Smith (Programme Director at University College London) and Dr. Beth Shabaan (visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center) spoke about their work on the Alzheimer’s Association Professonal Interest Area (PIA) to Elevate Early Career Researchers (PEERs), and a recent survey that has been carried out to collate the views of ECRs around the world on challenges and opportunities for career development in the dementia field.

Next up was Dr. Claudia Ramos of the Neurosciences Group of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia. Claudia is a medical doctor who is currently studying for a PhD, and in her presentation she focused on the particular challenges facing ECRs who are based in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), including issues with supplies, limited funding streams, and restricted opportunities for career development. The final speech was delivered by Dr. Riona McArdle of Newcastle University, where she is a NIHR Advanced Research Fellow. Riona spoke eloquently about the value of communication and transferable skills in academic research, highlighting how speaking about her research with different communities led to new research ideas and funding opportunities. She particularly emphasised the importance of considering and centering the patient voice in dementia research.

The brief presentations were followed by an hour of lively discussion, moderated by Prof. Leist and Prof. Caramelli. Points raised included the inequity of access to career development opportunities for researchers living in LMIC countries, work-life balance and how to juggle caring responsibilities in the home with research, and the importance of valuing research metrics that go beyond high-impact publications and grant funding. A transcript of the global dialogue will be available on the WDC website shortly.